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COLUMN: A Win Symbolic of Archie Miller’s Formula for Success

Photo Credit: Mark Timko

Indiana’s 80-56 trouncing of Minnesota was more than simply an emphatic victory. The Hoosiers demolition of Minnesota was expected and warranted, but also important.

The Hoosiers showed everyone across the Big Ten the way in which Archie Miller intends to win basketball games for the rest of his tenure at Indiana.

Coming into their game against Minnesota, the Hoosiers were a modest 72nd in the nation in defensive efficiency. It’s a ranking that doesn’t pull you out of your seat, but it’s a ranking that seemed nearly impossible at the season’s open. A ranking that seemed nearly impossible after Indiana gave up 90 points in its home opener to Indiana State of all schools.

Now, after Indiana held Minnesota to 33% shooting from the field and, the Hoosiers sit at 55th in the nation.

In Indiana’s last two games, they have held Rutgers and Minnesota to a total of 99 points. Nine more points than Indiana State.

“Well I think that Archie is a terrific coach and it’s clear what his identity is,” Minnesota Head Coach Richard Pitino said. “They are going to defend. They are going to play hard. They are going to rebound.”

It’s that identity in which Pitino harps upon that fueled this victory in every way. Minnesota is a team decimated with injuries and suspensions, so winning the game was never the accomplishment. Indiana importantly handled the clear task at hand and strove for excellence. Indiana ran with an approach that has fueled the team for weeks now. An approach that will follow this program as long as Archie Miller is in charge of it.

“We locked down on defense, and as we did that, it opened up our offense.” Juwan Morgan said.

It’s a simple idea, but allowing defense to lead to offense has cut out the Hoosiers turnovers, improved Indiana’s ball movement, and allowed Indiana to find much easier shots. It all comes from this team’s adjustment to the energy level needed to play the pack-line defense.

“The energy level is up,” Archie Miller said. “Guys are really working on the ball, which is something we struggled with at times this year, just not tough enough on the ball. From a positioning standpoint, from an energy level off the ball, guys are really aware. You see a lot more deflections, a lot more blocked shots. I think defensively we’ve done a better job just understanding how we play. We’ve got more experience playing with one another now.”

The key element to this increased defensive intensity is Indiana’s recently established starting lineup. Devonte Green sits at 227th in the nation in steal percentage and Zach McRoberts is remarkably 22nd in the nation at 4.1-percent.

“I have three guys on this team that are really good defenders,” Miller said. “They’ve become better defenders. Juwan is playing out of position, but he’s being asked to do a lot. He’s blocking shots. He’s defensive rebounding. He’s covering ground. And Zach and Rob, those two guys have stacked up against every guy in this league, and they’re playing really hard. You’ve got some talent over there right now as well.”

Indiana’s defensive fire held Minnesota to realistically having only three real scoring options all game in Nate Mason, Jordan Murphy and Isaiah Washington.

The effort on the defensive side of the ball helped to transition to an offense that moved the ball more effectively than it had all season. The Hoosiers had 21 assists on 30 baskets and were led by elite guard play.

“Rob guards the other guy’s best player the whole game,” Miller said. “He’s locked in on that end, which is great to see. I think tonight, if you look at him, he made a lot of really good passes — four assists, zero turnovers, he was unselfish, and he defensive rebounded for us…He’s a leader. He’s a rock. And he’s earned the right to play well at this time of the year with how he’s approached things.”

In addition to Robert Johnson’s play, Devonte Green continued his improved play that has been highlighted by playing a more simplistic style.

“For him to be playing the way he is right now is a really good step for our team,” Miller said. “We’re getting quality play-making ability, if you look at his last four games, maybe five, I’m not sure, his assist totals on those. He’s a guy that can really start to make things better for us, and low and behold, that’s giving him confidence in other areas.”

It was a win the embodied the way Archie wants to play for the years to come. Indiana didn’t need a superstar performance from Morgan like it had needed in games prior. Indiana just needed defense, and everything else came with it.

Eddie Cotton

I am a junior from Long Island, New York. I’m currently studying Marketing in the Kelley School of Business along with Journalism in The Media School at Indiana University. I’m currently the Co-Sports Director of WIUX (Indiana University’s Student Radio Station) and I am a broadcaster for BTN Student U. I am an individual that tends to thrive with bringing personality to sports coverage. I want to tell stories and help others tell their own. I want to provide a unique perspective. Most importantly, I want to entertain. The Hoosier Network is the ideal place to do that. Follow me on twitter @EdwardKoton15 Email me at ekoton@umail.iu.edu. Please, pretty please, venmo me at @EdwardKoton

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